The Liberty Bell (march)

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"The Liberty Bell" (1893) is an American military march composed by John Philip Sousa.[1]


"The Liberty Bell" was written for Sousa's unfinished operetta The Devil's Deputy, but financing for the show fell through. Shortly afterwards, Sousa and his band manager George Hinton attended the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As they watched the spectacle "America", in which a backdrop depicting the Liberty Bell was lowered, Hinton suggested "The Liberty Bell" as the title of Sousa's recently completed march. Coincidentally, Sousa received a letter from his wife, saying their son had marched in a parade in honor of the Liberty Bell. Sousa agreed. He sold "The Liberty Bell" to the John Church Company for publication, and it was an immediate success.[2] The march is played as part of an exhibit in the Liberty Bell Center.

The United States Marine Corps Band has played "The Liberty Bell" march at five of the last seven presidential inaugurations: the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton,[3][4] the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush,[5] the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations of President Barack Obama, and the 2017 inauguration of President Donald Trump.

"The Liberty Bell" is also the official march past of the Canadian Forces Public Affairs Branch.[6]


The march follows the standard form of AABBCDCDC.[7] The trio (sections C and D) uses tubular bells to symbolize the Liberty Bell ringing. The bells usually begin during the first breakstrain (section D), but some bands use them at the first trio (section C).

The Monty Python's Flying Circus connection[edit]

The march is often associated with the British TV comedy program Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–74), which used the version performed by the Band of the Grenadier Guards as a signature tune.[8] The British comedy troupe Monty Python's use of the melody is ironic; the bouncy melody of the march may be what the troupe found appealing. Terry Gilliam, the only American member of the troupe, decided to use the theme. He has said the piece was chosen because the troupe thought it could not be associated with the program's content, and that the first bell strike and the subsequent melody gave the impression of getting "straight down to business." It was also chosen because it was in the public domain and free from royalties, as there was no budget for theme music copyrights.

The Monty Python mode of presenting the tune was with a single strike of the bell, lifted from the third section and increased in volume, followed by a strain of each of the first two sections, followed by the famous stomping foot and a noticeably flatulent "splat" sound reminiscent of a whoopee cushion. (The first episodes, however, used a "hiss.") At the end of the film Monty Python: Live At The Hollywood Bowl, the entire march was played over the closing credits.

"The Liberty Bell" was used by the Foot Guards before it became associated with the television series, after which they chose another march.[9] Nevertheless, the march remains popular with British military bands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Works of John Philip Sousa". John Philip Sousa – American Conductor, Composer & Patriot. Dallas Wind Symphony. Retrieved 29 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Baker, Rick (16 September 1994). "Liberty Bell March History". Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "Michigan State University Libraries – Vincent Voice Library". 20 January 1993. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Bill Clinton Presidential Inauguation 1993 (Part 1 of 3), see 6:21-9:10, on YouTube
  5. ^ "2005". Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "CFAO 32-3 Regimental & Branch Marches of the Canadian Armed Forces by Timothy R. Groulx CD". Thunder Bay Telephone. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Liberty Bell March" (PDF). parts for band, including the chimes part. John Church Company. 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  8. ^ "Monty Python's Flying Circus – Main Theme". YouTube. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Television's Greatest Hits Volume II trivia booklet. Published by TeeVee Toons (1986).

External links[edit]